Welcome to March. This is the month where we “spring” ahead. For many of us, the twice-yearly switching of the clocks is unwelcome because it throws off our sleep patterns. So, this month we are focusing on how to get the best sleep.

New research finds that sleep can be most efficient and restful for older adults when nighttime bedroom ambient temperature ranges between 68 to 77°F. That is a pretty comfortable range for most of us, but many seniors often believe they prefer a higher temperature. The results of a recent study indicated that might not be a good idea.

The study collected 11,000 person-nights of sleep and environmental data from 50 older adults. Researcher Amir Baniassadi, Ph.D., of the Harvard Medical School, said they found a 5–10% drop in sleep efficiency as the nighttime ambient temperature increases from 77°F to 86°F. The researchers were quick to point out that associations were primarily nonlinear, and that substantial between-subject variations were observed.

The researchers found that older adults often experience inadequate, restless, and disrupted sleep which in turn influenced many outcomes related to their health and well-being such as cognitive and physical function, mood and affect, irritability and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Other studies have shown that poor sleep is disproportionately more common among older adults. Meanwhile, research on its causes has been mostly focused on physiological and behavioral factors, despite evidence suggesting that the environment the person sleeps in can be as influential. As a result, while numerous medical and behavioral interventions have been developed to improve outcomes related to sleep, the potential of environmental interventions have been largely overlooked.

Fortunately, you live in Mill Valley. Here, we have a wonderful outdoor environment and comfortable temperatures that stay in a pretty tight range.  We also live at a time where programable thermostats are affordable and easy to use. So, no matter what temperature you prefer during the day, if you would like to improve your sleep and decrease your chances of the challenges related to poor sleep, set your nighttime thermostat to between 68 and 77°F. Here’s to you and a good night’s sleep!

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